|LeBron James and Kobe Bryant can only laugh at Team USA's dominant performance against Nigeria. (AP)|
LONDON -- The U.S. team had scored 100 points by the middle of the third quarter. It was that kind of night for the Americans.
They broke a few records, shattered others. They hardly missed.
Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, making 10 of 12 3-pointers, and the Americans rewrote the Olympic record book with a scintillating shooting performance and 156-73 win Thursday night, an epic blowout that seemed to send a message to the rest of the men's tournament field.
Anthony set the U.S. Olympic mark for points in a game -- in less than three quarters. The U.S. also set the Olympic record for points in a game and points in a half (78). The Americans bettered the U.S. records as well for 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and field-goal percentage (71).
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Incredibly, they eclipsed the 100-point mark with 5 minutes left in the third.
And when Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer with 4:37 left, the Americans had surpassed the previous Olympic record of 138 points set by Brazil against Egypt in 1988. When the record was announced to the mesmerized crowd, all the players seated on the U.S. bench got up and slapped hands with coach Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff.
The last group in England with this many records was The Beatles.
"When we get hot, it's a big problem," Kobe Bryant said. "So you have all these guys on one team and then all get hot on the same night, it's tough."
Bryant scored 16 points -- 14 in the first quarter -- for the Americans, who scored 49 points in the first and didn't let up after scoring 78 in the first 20 minutes.
Russell Westbrook finished with 21 points and Kevin Durant had 14 for the U.S., which will play Lithuania on Saturday.
Ike Diogu scored 27 to lead Nigeria (1-2).
Bryant was mostly a non-factor in wins over France and Tunisia, playing just 21 minutes and getting into early foul trouble. But from the outset against Nigeria, the two-time Olympian nicknamed the Black Mamba was as deadly as ever. He set the tone by scoring seven quick points as the U.S. (3-0) raced to a 13-0 lead, a haymaker that stunned the Nigerians, some of whom had promised they wouldn't be intimidated by the Americans.
But the U.S. was scary indeed.
Durant buried three 3-pointers, Bryant and Anthony added two from long-range and when Kevin Love came off the bench and knocked down his first 3, the U.S. team's shooting gallery of stars had opened a 41-15 lead and made the p.a. announcer's pregame comment that "anything is possible" seem prophetic.
He was talking about a possible upset. The only surprise in the first quarter was when the U.S. missed.
"We were looking forward to this game, playing against the U.S.," Diogu said. "You know we wanted to use this to show the world what type of team we are. We just came out flat, turned the ball over too many times and they made us pay every time."
After starting so sluggsishly in blowout wins over France and Tunisia, the U.S. came flying out of the gates, led by Bryant.
The Americans seemed intent on breaking Nigeria's spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, they set their sights on making history.
Anthony, who made five 3-pointers in the first half, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. With the U.S. bench standing in anticipation every time he touched the ball on the perimeter, Anthony made all five of his attempts, punctuating one that made it 97-54 by turning and walking toward the other end of the floor, shrugging his shoulders.
He was in a zone unlike any seen before.
And, he wasn't alone as the Americans made 29 of 46 3-pointers (63 percent), numbers that could stand for several more Olympiads.
Although an Olympic rookie, Nigeria, with 10 players who played college ball in the U.S., also has its share of pro experience.
Diogu, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., after his parents emigrated from Africa, has played for eight NBA teams and Al-Farouq, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was traded last year by the Los Angeles Clippers to New Orleans in the deal for U.S. guard Chris Paul.
But there isn't a team in the Olympics that can match the American's celebrated roster with a combined 43 All-Star appearances, seven NBA titles and four league MVPs.
Krzyzewski gave his players the day off on Wednesday, a chance to relax and enjoy the games. Anthony and James Harden went to see boxing. Durant watched beach volleyball.
They came back rested.
And on target.